Castle hotels given awards

Three Hungarian hotels operating in historic castles have been awarded by Heritage Hotels of Europe at a ceremony in Vienna in appreciation of the work done to "bring the historic buildings back to life", the Association of Hungarian Historic Buildings and Castle Hotels has said. Szidónia Castle Hotel in Röjtökmuzsaj, northwest Hungary, won in the Heritage and Hospitality category, and Castle Forgách in Mándok, northeast Hungary, came third in the Heritage and Design prize. A special prize in the Heritage and Experience category was given to the visitor centre of the Almássy mansion in Gyula, southeast Hungary. The Heritage Hotels of Europe organisation comprises 13 member states aiming to promote coordinated marketing and cooperation between themselves.


First snow of the season hits Budapest

China honours Petőfi

A statue of Hungary's 19th-century revolutionary poet Sandor Petőfi and his wife Julia Szendrey has been erected in the Chinese megalopolis of Chongqing. The statue by sculptor Zsigmond Szórádi was gifted to the city's central Yuzhong district by Hungary's Foreign Ministry on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Hungary and China. Prime minister's advisor Géza Szőcs said the new statue is part of a strategy to boost Hungary's image in western China, with the country already having established a political, economic and cultural presence in Beijing and China's coastal cities. Szőcs noted the recent launch of Hungarian university programmes in Chongqing, Chengdu and Xi'an, and the upcoming direct flights between Budapest and Chongqing. The statue's inauguration thus coincides with both the Hungarian government's Eastern Opening policy and China's Belt and Road initiative, he said.

Hungarian budget ‘fault’

Hungary has not acted to comply with European Council budget recommendations, the European Commission says in a report. The EC therefore proposes that the Council should amend recommendations for measures to be taken in 2020 to correct for a big deviation from the country's medium-term budget targets. Both Hungary and Romania have been assessed in the framework of the Stability and Growth Pact. A warning is made in the case of major alignment deviations and to help EU member states to restore their budgetary positions.

# Christmas tram in service again on line 2

Human smuggler jailed

A Dutch citizen of Iraqi origin was jailed for eight years by a court in Debrecen for attempting to smuggle 36 Iraqi, Syrian and Iranian citizens from Hungary to western Europe in December 2016. In line with the non-final ruling he has been expelled from Hungary for ten years. The court ruled that the man had travelled to Hungary for the specific purpose of transporting third-country nationals westwards for money. He had been aware that the vehicle was not intended for carrying people and that if its door was opened from inside – in case of a panic – the passengers could suffer life-threatening injuries. The court also found the man guilty of attempted serious bodily harm, committed as part of an organised criminal group, and his actions seriously violated Hungary's integrity and sovereignty. The man denied the charges and said he had picked up the 36 people thinking that they were Hungarian workers who needed a lift to the next village.

# Ice rink in District III‘s main square open for the holiday season

Huge win a record

A Hungarian has won 30 million euros, before taxes, in the Eurojackpot, a lottery record for Hungary. The winner, who picked numbers 3, 12, 24, 37, 38, and 3 and 7 in the 5+2 game, will share the jackpot with two others who had the same numbers. One other Hungarian has won the Eurojackpot, in 2017, scooping 22.5 million euros, before taxes.

1956 martyr honoured

A commemoration has honoured former Danish diplomat Povl Bang-Jensen, a martyr of the 1956 anti-Soviet Uprising, at his monument in Rákoskeresztúr cemetery in Budapest. Addressing the ceremony, Fidesz official Zsolt Németh noted that the diplomat’s body had been found in a park in New York exactly 60 years ago. The high-ranking UN official became the target of government retaliation for protecting Hungarian witnesses of the 1956 Uprising and their families, Németh said. Bang-Jensen had saved hundreds of Hungarians by refusing to turn over details on their family members who fled the country. Németh drew a parallel between Bang-Jensen and Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who saved the lives of thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Second World War, noting that they had both saved Hungarians, both had yet to be fully recognised in their home countries and both died mysteriously.

# Nation‘s Christmas tree erected in front of Parliament

Congestion fees opposed

The government continues to object to the introduction of congestion charges in Budapest, initially proposed during former mayor Gábor Demszky's term in office before 2010, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has said. If current mayor Gergely Karácsony insists on the new charges, the issues should first be discussed in the Municipal Assembly, then in the Budapest Municipal Development Council and finally by parliament, the PMO added. It was reacting to deputy mayor Dávid Dorosz's remarks that the city would restrict the entry of cars to the centre and the use of diesel-run vehicles within five years.

Flights to Chongqing

China's Hainan Airlines will launch a twice-weekly direct flight between Budapest and the southwestern Chinese megalopolis of Chongqing from December 27. Hainan Airlines used to operate between Budapest and Beijing but stopped shortly after the 2012 bankruptcy of Hungarian airline Malév. LOT Polish Airlines will begin direct flights from Budapest to Varna, in Bulgaria, and Dubrovnik, Croatia, from next summer. These will fly each Sunday from June 7 to September 27 using Embraer E195 aircraft. The carrier also said it would increase direct flights between Budapest and Seoul from three to four a week from May, citing high demand.

# Truck drives off an overpass in district XI

Aid plan for seniors

Budapest's leadership intends to establish a Senior Citizens Council to provide a regular forum for various organisations helping to implement programmes that support the elderly, Mayor Gergely Karacsony has said. Elderly people in need could each receive a heating subsidy of 20,000 forints during winter, he said. Also, outpatient care operated by the capital's districts should have access to the national budget resources, as this was the only way to ensure Budapest residents lived longer. Karacsony said the municipality will start building retirement homes in the capital as well as expanding existing ones.

Syrian migrant expelled

A Syrian man arrested at a migrant shelter for attacking two police officers has been expelled from Hungary for six years. According to prosecutor, the officers told the man to stop "a recreational activity" he was engaged in, at which he attacked them with a table-tennis bat and his fists. The officers were unhurt. The district court of Nyírbátor sentenced him to 20 months in prison suspended for three years.

Puskás honoured

Hungarian football legend Ferenc Puskás (1927-2006) is being honoured with the World Sports Legends Award for life-time achievement. Awardees include Mika Hakkinen, Jean-Marie Pfaff, Jutta Kleinschmidt, Osvaldo Ardiles, Giacomo Agostini and Ayrton Senna.

Polgár wins again

Hungary's Judit Polgár has been selected as the first recipient of the European Golden Paw, a new award set up by the European Chess Union, in the women's category. The award is being granted annually to recognise performance and outstanding achievements related to the game, the Hungarian association said. This year it will be granted in 12 categories "Judit's award is a source of great pride for Hungarian chess and for Hungary as a whole; it's been common knowledge that she is the best female chess player that ever has lived and this is now again being recognised," the head of the association, László Szabó, said. "I will use the opportunity to attend the gala event in Monte Carlo to further build international ties for Hungarian chess, with special regard to promoting the possibility of Budapest hosting the chess olympics in 2024."

# Hotel in renovated Párisi Udvar opens

Gay boycott denied

Hungary's public service media organisation MTVA has rejected "outrageous and unacceptable statements" in the national and international media about the decision not to enter next year's Eurovision Song Contest. MTVA denied the decision is linked to the event being associated with the LGBTQ community, saying: "Those articles in the press referring to sexual orientation violate human dignity, the ethical norms of journalism, as well as the rule of law. A decision was made on professional grounds to directly foster talented Hungarian musicians in creating value-generating productions next year instead of launching the Eurovision Song Contest. We want to make clear that we do not take the sexual orientation of anyone in any production or event into consideration."

Tourists everywhere

All tourism records will again be broken this year following the record-breaking 2018, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó has said at the official opening of the Párisi Udvar Budapest Hotel. He said that having been on the brink of collapse nine years ago, the national economy is now vigorous and tourism has a large part to play. Budapest is a top European tourism destination, he noted. The capital had undergone considerable development and the number of cities directly accessible by flight from Budapest had grown from 86 to 147 in five years. Budapest is one of the world's safest cities in a world where security is increasingly prized, Szijjártó said.

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